A Pitcher’s Pedigree


After playing professionally for a year, Tyler Oakes went back to college baseball to coach.

Tyler Oakes has been around the art of pitching his whole life. Now, he’s helping teach it.

He couldn’t be happier. Oakes is in his first season as the pitching coach for the Jackrabbit baseball team.

A Jordan, Minn. native, Oakes pitched at Minnesota from 2006-09, working out of the bullpen for most of the last three years as a Gopher. He was signed as a free agent by the Tampa Bay Rays and was played for the Princeton Rays of the Rookie-level Appalachian League. He went 2-0 in 14 appearances and had a 3.82 ERA in 33 innings in 2009 but was released during spring training by the Rays in 2010.

“I got to fulfill the childhood dream of playing pro ball, even if it was just for a year. It was a good experience. I kind of knew what to expect, since my dad played coached in the minor league. What I try to take from it is to help some of the guys who do have a chance at pro ball to help them to know what to expect when they get there,” Oakes said.

Oakes’ father, Todd, spent 12 years coaching in the San Francisco Giants organization after playing for four years in the Giants’ minor league farm s. Todd is currently in his 15th year as the pitching coach for the Golden Gophers. Tyler’s brother, TJ, is currently a sophomore at Minnesota and was a Big Ten All-Freshman selection last year.

“It’s kind of been a part of my life and it’s played a huge role in my career,” said Oakes, who didn’t start playing organized baseball until the sixth grade. “As I grew up, I could always remember going to games and just being around the baseball atmosphere. It was probably one of the best experiences of my life, playing for him and getting to be a part of his pitching staff. I got to learn more about him as a coach and at the same time, I got closer to him in a father-son relationship as well.”

SDSU head coach Ritchie Price learned about Oakes’ interest through an assistant at Minnesota and saw some similarities between Oakes’ career and his own.

“I think he was really excited about the opportunity. He kind of reminded of where I was at four years ago, getting released in spring training and really wanting to land somewhere as a coach at the Division I level,” said Price, who played for a year in the New York Mets farm system.

“He knew I had a coaching history with my dad and then Ritchie contacted me and told me that if I wanted the job, it was mine and I gladly accepted. It’s a nice opportunity because I’m young guy and to get started at a D-I program that has had some recent success and an opportunity to step in and help them build off of that is a big positive,” Oakes said.

Oakes was able to watch the progression of the Jacks from afar while at Minnesota, meeting SDSU on the diamond eight times in his four years as a pitcher, winning six times. “They [SDSU] have definitely been stepping in the right direction and you can tell Ritchie has been doing a great job,” Oakes said.

The 24-year old, who is working on his master’s degree at SDSU, worked on the mental side of baseball early in the season and has tried to keep his philosophy relatively simple.

“My biggest thing is throwing strikes. Our philosophy is just building off the fastball and throwing strikes. The best hitters are getting out seven out of 10 times, so the numbers favor the pitchers. Oakes will play his father and brother twice this season, at Minnesota on Apr. 20 and back in Brookings a week later on Apr. 27.

“It’ll be a little different at first but like anything else, once you get into the game, it just sort of happens and you kind of forget about all of that stuff. It will be a cool experience, getting to go against some former teammates but it’s just another game,” Oakes said.

“I really love the game. I’ve been around it my whole life. I just love the ins and outs of it and the little strategic things that come with the game, like throwing a certain pitch in a certain count and the competitiveness of it all. I just like going out to the field everyday. I told myself I don’t really want to work at a job where I’m wearing a suit, sitting at a desk everyday. I probably wouldn’t enjoy that as much as coaching.”